The front page of last week’s Democrat made for grim reading.
Just to refresh your memory, the headline was ‘Reckless driver hurts fireman’ and surrounded an incident that had happened earlier in the week in which a member of Dundalk Fire Service was injured while on the job.
The incident happened on July 24th while the local fire service was responding to a car fire at Carnbeg on the Armagh Road.
In order to deal with the incident effectively, the crew who attended the scene were forced to put traffic restrictions in place but this was not satisfactory for one road user it seems as they decided to drive up along a ditch to get past the restrictions before driving at speed through the traffic cones and leaving one member of the service with a sprained knee in the process.
Now every member of the fire service knows that they are putting themselves at risk of harm each and every time they go out on a call. That is the nature of the job.
However, the last thing they can expect is to be almost mowed down by a raging motorist.
I know the fireman in question who was injured. Not personally, but well enough through family and friends to know that he has given a long and distinguished career to the service.
As one of the more experienced members of the local fire crew, he should get the public’s automatic respect as I’m sure he could tell you a tale or two about incidents over the years that would take lesser a man years of therapy to get over.
Thankfully, we have a very good fire service in the area and they have continued to provide an invaluable service over the years despite suffering from cutback after cutback.
I’d like to tell you that the recent incident was a one-off but unfortunately it’s not. While not exactly frequent, there have been other incidents in recent years of firemen coming under attack while on the job.
What goes through people’s minds when this happens simply baffles me.
They do what is largely a thankless job but at any given moment any one of us could need them, whether that be to extinguish a fire in our homes or to cut us, or a loved one, from a crashed car.
Following the murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe earlier this year, there has been a lot of talk about the sanctions for harming an officer. Indeed, Rachel O’Reilly’s father even called for the re-introduction of the death penalty last week.
While that may be extreme, I believe there should be zero tolerance when it comes to interfering with our rescue service employees while they are on the job.
Our society would be a much lesser place without them and, as already stated, you just never know when you might need them yourself.
Whether it be a guard, ambulance driver or fireman, they should be respected. Thankfully the injured party in this case will make a full recovery but surely tougher laws are required to ensure this isn’t repeated again.
This particular fireman had something of a let off, the last thing we want is a death on the job – particularly when its not the hazard, in this case fire, that causes the problem to begin with.